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Much Abrew: Ally Mill (Modern)

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Much Abrew About Nothing. Last week, there really wasn't much competition as far as most popular Instant Deck Tech—our Wildcard Wednesday offering of Ally Mill not only crushed the rest of the deck decks but will go down as one of the most popular Instant Deck Techs of all time. As such, this week we are heading to Modern to see if we can get some combo kills by reanimating a bunch of cheap clones like Phantasmal Image and Jwari Shapeshifter with a Halimar Excavator on the battlefield. While the deck looks a bit scattered on paper, the combo seems powerful—it doesn't take that many copies of Halimar Excavator entering the battlefield at once from Return to the Ranks to mill our opponent's entire deck. Is the plan competitive? We're about to find out!

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Ally Mill: Instant Deck Tech

Ally Mill vs. Enduring Ideal (Match 1)

Ally Mill vs. Eldrazi Tron (Match 2)

Ally Mill vs. Jund Death's Shadow (Match 3)

Ally Mill vs. Abzan Company (Match 4)

Ally Mill vs. WB Smallpox (Match 5)

Ally Mill Wrap-Up


  • First off, we finished our matches 2-3, and in all honesty, I felt lucky that we escaped with this good of a record.
  • While the combo is really sweet and surprisingly powerful (as seen in game three against WB Smallpox, where we topdecked a Return to the Ranks and milled something like 100 cards out of nowhere from a position where we were almost assuredly going to lose the next turn), the deck itself is amazingly inconsistent. There are a few reasons for this inconsistency, so let's briefly break them down.
  • We only have four copies of Halimar Excavator, which is the only way to get cards in our graveyard and combo off. This left us feeling like we almost had to mulligan until we found an Excavator to have any chance of winning, and that's not a good position to be in.
  • We also only have four Return to the Ranks, which is the only way to get creatures back from our graveyard and combo off. We also don't have a way to get a Return to the Ranks back from our graveyard, which means we often find ourselves in this really weird position: to combo off, we need to target ourselves with Halimar Excavator (assume we got lucky enough to draw one), but unless we have a Returns to the Ranks in hand, there a decent chance we never find a copy and all our milling will be for naught.
  • We really don't have a backup plan. In several games, we had to attempt to win by cloning Hada Freeblade, and I'm not sure this actually worked out a single time. The biggest problem is we don't have additional threats because instead of playing other aggressive Allies like Kazandu Blademaster, we are playing mostly zero- and one-powered creatures to facilitate the combo kill.
  • We also had games where we would get clone-flooded and not have anything good to copy. In fact, there was one game where we were copying Harabaz Druid, which obviously isn't ideal.
  • Finally, I'm not sure you can play Aether Vial and Collected Company in the same deck—especially in a deck that is also trying to run four copies of Return to the Ranks. We ended up having bad Aether Vials and bad Collected Companies. While I'm not sure which is better, and both cards have a lot of power in the deck, if you decide to give Ally Mill a run, pick one or the other, not both.
  • Okay, now that we've gotten the bad out of the way, let's talk about fixing the deck. The combo itself is powerful, and it's really easy to mill someone out by reanimating a bunch of clones at once, so while this build of the deck was endlessly frustrating, there's a chance that the combo itself is redeemable.
  • If I play the deck again, the first thing I'll do is go all-in on the combo with Satyr Wayfinders to help stock the graveyard and Eternal Witness to get Return to the Ranks back from the graveyard once we mill it. This essentially gives us eight Halimar Excavators and eight Return to the Ranks, which should help a ton with consistency.
  • To make this work, we would cut some of the lesser Allies. I'm not sure we really need Hada Freeblade. Milling the opponent out little by little by playing random Allies just isn't practical. Also getting the axe is Harabaz Druid, which is powerful when things go exactly right but more often than not is just worse than something like Birds of Paradise
  • The other big change would be finding room for removal somewhere in the 75. Not playing any way to interact with the opponent can work for combo decks that are both fast and consistent, but in Ally Mill (with is both slow and inconsistent), we really need to have the option to kill something every once and a while. Finding room in the sideboard is easy, so start there, but if you can figure out a way to get some number of Path to Exile in the main deck, it would be even better. 
  • So, should you play Ally Mill? Not in its current form. While I think the combo could be developed into a reasonable Against the Odds or Budget Magic deck, the build we played for the videos was just too inconsistent to be fun. That said, if you have some other ideas for improving the deck and making it more consistent, make sure to let me know! 


Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck by liking, commenting on, and subscribing to Instant Deck Tech videos. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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